Inuit elders are saying that more polar bears need to be hunted to control the population in Nunavut’s western Hudson Bay area.

Elders and hunters from the territory’s Kivalliq region told the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board during public consultations April 24 in Arviat that they have noticed more encounters with polar bears in recent years.

The wildlife board held the consultations to seek feedback on proposals from Nunavut’s environment department to reduce polar bear hunting on western Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay.

The government is concerned the polar bear population is declining, citing data from the Canadian Wildlife Service indicating the number has dropped below 1,000 bears, as their habitat is threatened by shrinking ice cover in the far north.

Territorial Environment Minister Patterk Netser has given the wildlife board a number of formal recommendations that call for reductions in the polar bear harvest in those areas, with the most drastic option being a moratorium on hunting for a period of time until the bears’ numbers increase.

But many elders at the meeting gave examples of frightening encounters with the bears -encounters they say are happening more often.

Other elders voiced concern that the wildlife board is only considering Canadian Wildlife Service data, and overlooking Inuit traditional knowledge.

The findings will be studied and after more consultations in Pond Inlet, the board will decide what steps to take.